NIGGERS, FLAGS AND RACISTS
The words are still shocking, even more so from an 11 year old.
"They ought to kill all the niggers or send them back to the slave houses. The stupid old niggers are the problem."
The petulant girl was the daughter of the kleagle of a particularly active and virulent cell of the ku klux klan. Her words were pivotal in a documentary demonstrating how racism is passed through generations.
I covered the klan and extremist groups in the mid 60's and years later wrote and produced KLAN to portray how and why racism and racial hatred is so deeply woven into the American fabric. David Brinkley, one of the national Emmy judges, along with Senator Barry Goldwater, called KLAN "One of the most important hours in television." A national Emmy is an honor but little good that program or many other fine journalistic efforts have done to sear the disease of racism from society.
A friend and Presbyterian pastor was active in the struggle that got the confederate flag removed from atop the Dome at the Statehouse in Columbia South Carolina. That it still flies anywhere is symptomatic of the disease.
Despite comments about heritage, legacy, history or any honey tongued justification, the flag is all about racism, white supremacy and slavery. Ta-Nehisi Coates in this Atlantic piece presents the very words of the confederacy and their political leaders. They are convicted by their own uttering.
The racist front continues in the existent celebration and heritage of the confederacy in the south; streets, highways, schools bearing the name of confederate leaders along with statues, monuments and cultural icons. We can not afford to forget facts and must seek to understand the pathology of the culture, but we should not elevate the symbols and names of those who sought to keep humans enslaved, denied of their rights, liberties and dignity and made war to do so.
The flag belongs in an historical museum, as a nazi swastika or heraldry is kept. It is an object of study. It is a token of a shamed and hateful ideology. The flag itself will not spur a supremacist to violence but its very flying near a seat of government is a nod and wink that condones a perpetuation of the hatred.
Whether on license plates, belt buckles, t-shirts, bumper stickers, in media or even tattoos, anything that celebrates slavery should be seen for what it is, evil and a discredited idea banished to the ash bin of history.
Words carry emotional history. We debated and anguished over inclusion of the girl's words. I debated with myself in telling the story in this post. Such is testament to the sensitivity and respect that is due, but "to each his own," unless it inflicts pain, as does the confederate flag.
A post script: Hoagland Jr. High School in Ft. Wayne was a mix of Black, Hispanic and Caucasians-almost an equal split with fewer Caucasians. Our basketball team was predominately Black with a few Latinos and a couple of us white guys. In the final moment of a city tourney game our center, Roosevelt (Rosie) Dodds made an incredible hook shot giving us a win. As we triumphantly moved to the locker room several of my team mates deliriously gave Rosie high fives, cheering "way to go Nigguh." I lined up behind a black mate and when I got to Rosie's locker I gave him a high five and said "way to go Nigguh." Rosie smiled, picked up his tennis shoe and whacked me on the face. Still smiling, extending his hand to pick me up he said "but you ain't no Nigguh!" Rosie taught me a lesson, vivid today as it was years ago.
BTW we aired a 10th Anniversary reprise of KLAN.
The sassy and hateful little girl had grown up. She was still at home but had been banished to a trailer on the families property. She apologized to our viewers saying she had changed her mind and learned real history. She was working with "African Americans" and considered one a good friend.
A FATHER OF PEACE
The man on the left is Elias Chacour, thrice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I recalled the week I spent with Father Chacour as I read of recent Druze violence in the middle east.
Chacour has done what no one else has. He's brought Druze, Muslim, Orthodox, Arab, Palestinian, Jew and Christian together.
I shot this assemblage of every middle eastern faction imaginable-Israeli government, Palestinian, Druze, Muslim, Arab, Christian, Melkite Catholic, Orthodox. Chacour had convened them to dedicate a new building at his remarkable Peace school in Ibillin in the hills of Galilee.
Struggling against unimaginable odds, it seems no one wanted him to succeed, Chacour created a school where Jew, Muslim, Druze, Palestinian and Christian children studied together. I was there as a journalist and was overwhelmed his achievement. I was indelibly impressed by
by the courage and extraordinary quality of the man. We had hours of conversation driving across Israel, in his garden, at dinners and in his home. We watched him work his efforts at reconciliation. Chacour was born in Galilee and considers himself a Palestinian-Arab-Christian citizen of Israel. He is truly a peace maker, perhaps the hardest job on the planet.
Role models are important, as are images and symbols.
To what do we owe our attention?
To what do we owe our attention?
SOMETHING NICE IN PARTING
With appreciation to my daughter Katherine!
See you down the trail.